Talent Showcase

Six participants from CAFNR exhibited at the 2014 MU Staff Arts and Crafts Showcase

staff art showStaff from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources were part of a recent showcase of talents — exhibiting painting, photography, textile art, costume making, stained-glass art, and more — at the 2014 MU Staff Arts & Crafts Showcase.

The event was part of MU’s Staff Recognition Week and was hosted by Staff Advisory Council and sponsored by MU Student Unions. More than 40 staff members displayed their artwork at the showcase.

CAFNR participants included Aaron Duke, CAFNR Communications; Genevieve Howard, CAFNR Communications; Jan Judy March, Biochemistry; Benton Naylor, Bradford Research Center; Sharon Pike, Plant Sciences; and Kyle Spradley, CAFNR Communications.

Learn more below about how they got started in their art form, what they enjoy about it, and how you too can learn!

Aaron Duke

Aaron Duke

Q: How did you first get into photography and painting?

A: My first photos were taken during a family trip out west. My mom bought me a disposable camera and the resulting photographs impressed everyone. Over the years my work improved until I decided to go back to college in 2006 at Missouri State to pursue a degree in photography. I ended up with a degree in graphic design with a minor in photography and a minor in advertising.

A: My first paintings resulted from experiments with my college roommate Mark Livesay in 2007. We were pretty crazy about abstract expressionism. Our painting sessions could get rather messy, and we tried our best not to ruin our apartment. We experimented with many different methods and consistencies of paint, India ink, watercolors and more. I only took one painting course in college — traditional oil on canvas. But that course combined with my Color Theory course taught me a lot about blending colors, how light works and human perception of color.

Q: What about it appeals to you?

A: The big appeal of photography for me is painting with light. It’s not always about what is actually there, but conveying my unique perception of what I’m seeing to those who view my work. Sometimes there is a message, often times there isn’t, and I don’t really care if people understand it.

A: I don’t paint often, but when I do it’s a big stress reliever. I think my inner workings shine through in my paintings. By embracing that in my paintings I feel like it gives me back some control. It externalizes it. I put a lot of emotion into my paintings, specifically my action paintings. They aren’t random strings and splatters of color. They are guided through chaos by deliberate thought and feeling. The reactiveness of the medium gives it a certain spontaneity that I enjoy.

Q: What inspires your artwork?

A: While in school my photography was inspired by the work of the New Topographers, such as Robert Adams and Stephen Shore. Visiting Magnum photographer Alex Webb told me that I have a “graphic eye,” in the sense of seeing unique patterns of shape, line, and more in a photographic composition and arranging them in a manner that draws the viewer into my photos. I found that to be a source of inspiration going forward. I’m always looking at intersecting points and shapes in my image and how I can pull somebody into my photo through various methods of composition.

A: My paintings are inspired by the work of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Lee Krasner, among others. They’re a part of the abstract expressionism movement that began in the 1940s. I tend to combine some of their work with my own style, such as doing under-paintings with strange, fast brush strokes of geometric and biomorphic patterns, and then overlay those with strings and splatters of color. Pollock particularly inspired me because of his connection to Missouri painter Thomas Hart Benton, who was his teacher. I remember visiting the Missouri Capitol on a school field trip as a child and being amazed by the size and beauty of Benton’s epic murals. It was quite incredible when I first learned that Pollock’s work was a rebellion against Benton, and it showed me that two completely different styles of art could both be successful in their own way.

Q: What advice would you give someone else who is looking to get into photography or painting?

A: When beginning to learn photography, don’t go straight to digital. Learning on film slows down your thought process and allows you to further develop an eye for composition. There are a limited number of photos, which gives you an incentive to learn proper exposure. If you aren’t consistent with your exposure then you’ll be punished with more time in the dark room trying to get your prints just right. It will make you a better photographer—even when it comes time to use digital — because the quality of light that you achieve will be better and you won’t have to spend as much time editing.

A: When learning to paint, don’t worry because you can’t mess up. Painting is a medium in which there are no errors. If you don’t like it, just keep painting. You can always cover over or change it into something new. Look at lots of art books. At first I didn’t do this because I thought that it would somehow be cheating. That I would only be emulating their work. This was my worst mistake. As Picasso said (and Steve Jobs famously quoted): “Good artists copy, but great artists steal.” Many people misunderstand this quote. Picasso was referring to the fact that if you want to be mediocre you’ll just copy what others have done, but the great artists steal an idea and run away with it. They make it their own. They change it into something new or better. I think that’s fantastic advice for photographers, painters, or any other artists.

Genevieve Howard

Gen Howard

Q: How did you first get into knitting?

A: I’ve always been attracted to color and handmade items. I first tried knitting as a way to understand and feel close to my mother after she died. She was a supreme knitter when she was well enough to knit. Her work outlasted her lifetime, and I still treasure it. It’s like she left me these notes in her stitches that I wasn’t able to read until I learned to knit myself.

I planned to knit for a month. I didn’t expect yarn to become my way of self-expression, but it acts as a perfect counterpoint to the intellectual, ethereal work I do involving computers and ideas.

Working by hand gives me a sense of calm and well-being.  I’ve been knitting for four years now, and doing crochet for three. The fibers connect me to people who have been doing this work for millennia.

Q: What about it appeals to you?

A: Its simplicity! One tool and one skein of yarn equal a hat, a scarf or a little toy.

Working with yarn costs little and has a long history. It can be functional, artistic or scientific (check out the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef for an example of crochet helping explain science! http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2010/12/04/hyperbolic_crochet_coral_reef/ )

Yarn people are a strong global community. Just like dogs or babies act as conversation starters, my crochet or knitted pieces inspire strangers to chat with me. They might not do yarn work themselves, but almost everyone knows someone who does. Once I was in the bookstore looking at pattern books when an international student asked me about what he should buy for his aunt back home in Saudi Arabia. He called her in the bookstore so I could talk about what she liked to do and make a recommendation. Here we were, total strangers with very different cultures, but we both loved working with yarn!

Q: What inspires your art?

A: People.

We live in a time of machines and screens. An amazing time! We are globally connected. But we still have people who grieve, who struggle with cancer and who feel alone as the pace of our modern life races past them.

This is where the art of the handmade comes through. The handmade is rare. It takes time. It takes concentration. To put the energy of my heart and my hands into my work, and then give that piece to someone who will gain comfort or use from it—that desire drives my art.

Q: What advice would you give someone else who is looking to get into your art form?

A: Approach it with an attitude of curiosity and faith that you can do no wrong! Yarn is forgiving. I taught myself knitting from a book. Apparently not well! For the first five months, I was twisting my stitches. I had made more than six finished pieces before I realized what I was doing. But it didn’t matter. The pieces were functional and warm. Twisted stiches are a type of stitch, even if they aren’t typical. I see something wonderful when I look back on my first works; they’re visible proof of the learning process.

I admire the Navaho rug tradition where the fiber artists intentionally make a mistake in their work. They believe people are not perfect; only the creator is perfect. Allow yourself to make mistakes—and for the pieces to show them. Then people will know they are handmade. I believe the best creations start—and end—with love: love for others, love for craft and the simple love of being alive right now.

Jan Judy March

Jan Judy March

Q: How did you first get into stained glass art?

A: I took a class at the campus art studio about 24 years ago. They offered a lead and copper foil class. About half the lab took the stain glass class and the other half took a pottery class. I have dabbled off and on in the stain glass over the years. I did the fish large which is the lead and the orange fish (copper). I also did the green piece.

The pieced youth quilt tops and the upscale feed bags were mine.

Q: What about it appeals to you?

A: When the sunlight comes through the stain glass and papers on the floor or walls, it just makes me smile.

Q: What inspires your artwork?

A: Love all the colors that glass comes in. Then you need to check out the glass to see how it will enhance the piece. I did a skull and it was very important to find a cream and turn the glass so that it looked like alright.

Q: What advice would you give someone else who is looking to get into stained glass design?

A: Don’t be afraid of glass and take a class to help you learn the tricks of the trade. Have fun.

Benton Naylor

Benton Naylor

Q: How did you first get into photography?

A: Where to start — I have farmed and worked as a welder/mechanic at Bradford Farm for 29 years as well as with dad’s fertilizer/grain elevator business and our family farm. I have always had an interest in photos that the family took, being a vacation or working in the fields harvesting or planting a crop or moving dirt to landgrade a field for better drainage, having cleared most of farm out of timber since 1959. In 1993 I took a lot of pictures of the flood that were included in the county photo book the newspaper put together of various areas and damages left as the result. I didn’t take any photos of people cleaning up their homes or washing their property away. The photos were of know locations over the county and the state referenced off county road locations, railroads or representative landmarks found in a town. When the family would get together for holidays I started taking pictures of different members that would be included in family history so further generations would know what some looked like. Along the way I started watching who came through town and the fairs and festivals in the state that I hadn’t seen or wanted a better photo of. I don’t sell my photos and they are not listed on any websites. The photos are returned to the families for their enjoyment.

Q: What about it appeals to you? What inspires your photography?

A: It is not done for the money as the pay is poor, but the friendships have been a lot of fun with the individuals and their families — or a signed photograph or CD by the artist will be accepted payment. The meeting of new people young and old and their families – it’s always a challenge to make a nice print of the members in the groups you’re photographing who you haven’t seen before or know how their act goes during their presentation.

Q: What advice would you give someone else who is looking to get into photography?

A: I still shoot film, some color and mostly black and white, as I haven’t switched to digital format, which means a new set of things to learn again. When I look at the first photos taken of people, you have to sit, watch and observe what’s going on within the group and be patient as things will come sooner or later. I have found wait, don’t be pushy and just be observant to the happenings, will go a long ways with the people.

Sharon Pike

Photo by Anju VermaPhoto by Anju Verma

Q: How did you first get into artistic costume design/art inspired by costume?

A: My art forms are artistic costumes and art inspired by costume. I got into designing costumes almost monthly from 2005 to 2007 because the variety show, Moulin Musique, had a costume contest and I was one of the many volunteers who made the show happen. Before 2005 my costumes were merely sequined dresses, but Sutu Forté always asked, “Who are you?” So I started creating glittering somewhat oddball costumes with self-made masks attached to sun glasses, combining found articles with used clothing that I sewed together differently and decorated artistically. Moulin Musique no longer exists, but I have a collection of costumes and professional photographs of performances by Joel Anderson. I also had the opportunity to create Spirit of First Night for Sutu’s 2010 New Year’s Eve Show. At the staff art/craft show a mannequin displayed the Butterfly of Hope on a rosebush costume and I modeled Here Comes the Sun (photos taken by Anju Verma). The table-top display featured photographs, mask-glasses, and costume accessories.

I got into art inspired by costume because Catherine Parke, a Moulin Musique guest artist, said my costumes deserved to be displayed on walls. I created a head form to display the Here Come the Sun mask-glasses and asked Liz Priddy to sculpt the facial features from papier Mache. When she made a strongly masculine face, I needed to change my concept of how to use the head. Over the next five years, I worked on the 4-foot diameter art piece using sheer glittered fabrics and ribbons to represent the sun and the Gulf sky colors as a sun god emerged on the spring equinox. The rich reflectiveness is hard to capture in a photo but Shane Epping presented a beautiful photo of it in http://news.missouri.edu/2014/getting-crafty/and Anju Verma captured both the costume and the wall art in her photo.

Q: What about it appeals to you?

A: I like to surprise an audience. Often people I know don’t recognize me and are surprised because my costumes are so different from my everyday attire. I like the glitter and the anonymity of being masked. I like to incorporate ideas that make people laugh like the emergence of the very sequined Here Comes the Sun shirt from the half gold/half black Equinox costume, the elegant Vamp who became a vampire, or the regal Valentine queen who wore a flashing heart kid’s necklace, carried a flower-power scepter, and had a loyal mouse subject that sang, “I want to be loved by you.” I liked the challenge of making each costume more elaborate than the previous one. I liked the artistic challenge of creating mask-glasses for every costume, the wild lighted starred hat for Spirit of First Night, and the three-dimensional rose bush for the Butterfly of Hope.

Q: What inspires your design?

A: My costume designs often were inspired by the date of the show: the Mardi Gras Butterfly of Hope, the Valentine’s Day Queen, the Spring Equinox Here Comes the Sun, the Halloween Vamp/Vampire, the Christmas Real Mrs. Santa Claus and Peppermint Fairy, the New Year’s Eve Spirit of First Night.

Q: What advice would you give someone else who is looking to get into design?

A: Give yourself at least three months from concept to finished costume to let the idea percolate while you search estate sales and resale shops and craft stores. Plan to spend over $100 and at least 100 hours to make a costume that is artistic, witty, and unusual. Learn to sew; 4-H sewing is great preparation. Find collaborators if you have a concept but not the skill and let your imagination flow with the ideas they bring. Just as finding a sculptor to form the face for Here Comes the Sun brought a totally different, better concept, I am sure that the process of learning how to make a paper body cast for Spirit of First Night, or getting images of hope from the community and collaboration with a computer tech expert to make a real Butterfly of Hope would produce better art than my present imagining. Buy a big house because you will need a lot of space to create the costumes and then recreate them in a different form, and to store costumes, masks, display boards, foam heads, mannequins, framed photos, and wall art. Find a partner and friends who are willing to help you haul and assemble a show and photographers to document your work.

Kyle Spradley

Kyle Spradley

Q: How did you first get into photography?

A: I started with photography when I was in my early teens. My family likes to travel and spend time outdoors and so what better way to capture the places you go than to photograph it. I really got into it once I got to in high school and began to work on newspaper and yearbook in the darkroom. I loved the process of developing film and working with negatives. This lead to a degree from MU in Science and Ag J and now they say the rest is history.

Q: What about it appeals to you?

A: It’s great sharing my work with people. I am all about sharing cool places and great stories with other people and photographs do just that. I love traveling to a new place and immersing myself in the landscape and capturing its beauty or the stories of the people. And to go back and share that with someone is so gratifying.

Q: What inspires your artwork?

A: A lot of what I do is photography, whether it be photojournalism or portraiture, but I love capturing landscapes and the outdoors. We all have seen gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, but to capture what is out there in the best way possible and in an interesting angle is a challenge. So I love the challenge and again, the fact that I can share with people the things I am lucky to go out and see. I also hope to inspire others to get outdoors and explore the area around them or travel.

Q: What advice would you give someone else who is looking to get into photography?

A: Don’t get into it. Haha. If you like spending countless hours waiting for the right light and sacrificing sleep, missing regularly scheduled meals and the ever-changing-ever-amusing Midwest weather, then ya, this is the job for you. But it requires a commitment. A lot of people tell me, ‘Wow, I wish I could take pictures like you.’ That can happen, but it requires dedication, time, an eye for composition, knowing about gear and just having the drive to want to create images.

I was asked the other day by a teenager that I was photographing, ‘Do you ever get tired of just taking pictures?’ To me, it’s not about taking a snapshot or a selfie to share online. It’s about creating a moment, capturing a story or showing someone something they have never seen before. Again, it goes back to that dedication and willingness to do the craft. If you don’t put in the effort, you’ll never succeed — and that’s true in a lot of things in life.